Mar 04

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Top 10 Uses of Samples in Hip-Hop History

If not for the hip-hop of the early 90's, I may have never discovered some truly great artists like Donny Hathaway.

If not for the hip-hop of the early 90′s, I may have never discovered some truly great artists like Donny Hathaway.

As with most music genres, I posses an admitted bias for hip-hop of the 90′s, though I struggled for years to explain why. It simply sounded better than anything before or since. While I certainly appreciate the significance of pre-NWA hip-hop, today it sounds dated, while an album like Dr. Dre’s The Chronic sounds as fresh as it did twenty years ago, arguably better than today’s auto-tuned nonsense that passes as hip-hop.

The Chronic represents a landmark album in the annals of music for a number of reasons, but most importantly, it introduced the world to “G-Funk,” in which hip-hop artists layered their tales of the street on top of sampled classics of funk and soul. It gave the music a groove to accompany the beat, a swagger to match the substance, and made it palatable to music lovers of all varieties, and introduced a generation of white folks like me to musical legends like Leon Haywood for the first time.

G-funk was to early 90′s hip-hop what grunge was to early 90′s rock. It defined the whole “West Coast sound, ” proving the tracks an artist samples can be just as important as the lyrics they write, or the beats they drop.

As such, I felt compelled to share my personal “Top 10 Uses of Samples in Hip-History.”

1. “It Was a Good Day” Ice Cube

Samples: “Footsteps in the Dark (Parts 1 & 2)” The Isley Brother

Judging by its ubiquitousness, Ice Cube’s “It Was a Good Day” might be the most popular hip-song of all time. It’s also one of the most solid, thanks in large part to this Isley Brother classic.


2. “Lil’ Ghetto Boy” Dr. Dre (featuring Snoop Dogg & D.O.C.)

Samples: “Little Ghetto Boy” Donny Hathaway

Without question, Snoop’s finest work. Also, served as my introduction to Donny Hathaway, a true American legend.


3. “Nuthin’ But a G Thang” Dr. Dre ( featuring Snoop Dogg)

Samples: “I Want’a Do Something Freaky With You” Leon Haywood

The “Smells Like Teen Spirit” of G-Funk. There is no question that if not for this song, I would have never discovered the great Leon Haywood.

4. “My Mind Playin’ Tricks on Me” Geto Boys

Samples: “Hung Up On My Baby” Isaac Hayes

In keeping with the grunge/G-funk analogy, the Geto Boys would be the Mudhoney of the G-funk world–great at their craft, but never got the attention of their counterparts. Everybody knows and loves Isaac Hayes, but not everyone knows “Hung Up on My Baby.”

5. “Let Me Ride” Dr. Dre (featuring RBX and Snoop Dogg)

Samples: “Swing Down, Sweet Chariot” Parliament

In the perfect marriage of hip-hop and funk, Parliament meets Dr. Dre.

6. “To Live and Die in L.A.” Makaveli

Samples: “Do Me Baby” Prince

For the non-initiated, Makaveli is the stage name of one Tupac Shakur, or 2Pac, if you prefer, who had a real knack for sampling great tracks. This just happens to be my favorite his (and my favorite Prince song).

7. “I Beeped You” Father

Samples: “ABC” Jackson 5

A good friend once said that if not for the Jackson 5, there would be no hip-hop. This statement is true on so many levels, one of which is the number of hip-hop artists who have sampled their work. This is an obtuse example I know, but well worth your listen.

8. “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” Missy Elliott

Samples: “I Can’t Stand the Rain” Ann Peebles

A unique song for several reasons, most notably the first entry from a female artist and an act clearly associated with the “East Coast sound.”

9. “Boombastic” Shaggy

Sample: “Let ‘s Get It Own” Marvin Gaye

A clear case of the sample saving the song. Don’t believe me, listen to the original version of “Boombastic” without the sample.

10.  “Dear Mama”  2Pac

Samples: “Sadie”  The Spinners

I hate to admit it, but for years, I thought “Dear Mama” sampled R. Kelly’s “Sadie,” but I have since learned that it was The Spinners’ classic (which R. Kelly did indeed cover) that 2Pac sampled.

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